AGENDA: How to get employees to reflect your brand - Building a successful service culture in your company is far from easy, but the rewards in staff morale and sales are enormous. Jim Curtis looks at two companies where satisfying customers has paid divi

You’re a consumer. You know how annoyed you feel when you’re on the receiving end of shoddy service dealt out by someone who couldn’t give a monkey’s whether you’re happy or not.

You’re a consumer. You know how annoyed you feel when you’re on the

receiving end of shoddy service dealt out by someone who couldn’t give a

monkey’s whether you’re happy or not.

So you know how important it is to get it right. The trouble is you also

know how difficult it is to achieve for your business.

According to two of the most successful creators of service cultures,

true customer satisfaction can only be achieved by starting from the

inside of the organisation and working out. Internal, not external,

marketing is the key.

This was the message from Archie Norman, who is trying to repeat for the

Conservative Party his dramatic turnaround of Asda, and Charles

Dunstone, Carphone Warehouse founder. Both spoke at last week’s

Institute of Directors conference, where the theme was ’Customers Mean


Norman and Dunstone are worth listening to on how good service

translates into business success. Only seven years ago, Asda was pounds

730m in debt and had been given up for dead by many. It was a focus on

staff motivation and stakeholding that Norman credits for turning Asda

around: ’Creating an organisation which can win customers is about

making employee motivation central to the company’s performance. If you

can get the morale right, sales look after themselves.’

Likewise, Dunstone says that in order to become a different and

’personality-based’ mobile phone retailer, he knew that he had to

instill the brand’s values in the staff before he could hope for them to

be communicated to customers.

The company mantra of expert sales people finding the right phone,

network and tariff for each individual customer required staff not only

to be knowledgeable but also truly impartial in their advice.

Consequently, staff get no incentives or kick-backs for selling

particular products and have to go through a rigorous training


Customer care

’I don’t understand how you can motivate a workforce if you are asking

them to live a lie by not always acting in the customer’s interests,’

says Dunstone.

The philosophy seems to have worked: from a standing start in 1989,

Carphone Warehouse is top of its market, with 140 shops, 1000 employees,

and out-of-town superstores about to open.

So how do Norman and Dunstone do it?

According to Norman, it’s a question of waking up to changes in British

society. ’Gone are the days when you expect employees to turn up and

leave their brains at the door. They expect their work to be fulfilling.

The old style British culture of hierarchy and status is a thing of the


Norman and his top executives sit in open-plan offices with everyone

else. There are no privileged parking spaces, just one with a golden

cone for the employee of the month. Managers are given mops to clean the

floor and are sent coat hangers with the note ’no jacket required’ to

discourage them from wearing suit jackets when working.

The biggest leveller is a scheme where top-performing employees win a

red Jaguar for a month. Norman explains: ’After I arrived, a number of

directors left, leaving me with a surplus of Jaguars.’

This sense of employee ownership is extended beyond workplace


Norman says he wants Asda ’to be the biggest employee share-owning

company in Britain’. At the IOD conference he announced Asda’s first

issue of company shares to employees; 26,000 staff will receive pounds

23m worth of shares in July. Around 46,000 employees will receive them

over the next three years.

’Giving everyone a personal interest in the future of the company means

giving all colleagues the benefits that have traditionally been the

directors’ perk.’

Dunstone has a similar view and has set up a trust fund which employees

can apply to for money in times of need or emergencies.

Anyone who doubts the value of staff motivation should consider a recent

study by the Henley Centre which calculated that, for a company with an

annual income of pounds 500m, bad service could cost it pounds 1.8bn

over five years.

Might be time to invest in a few red Jaguars.


- Open plan offices, ’stand up’ meeting rooms

- One reserved parking space for winner of ’The Golden Cone’

- Red Jaguar for a month for employee who sells most of a chosen product

- ’Golden mop’ for managers to clean the floor

- Colleague share ownership plan to distribute shares to 26,000

employees in July. Worth approx pounds 800 per employee.


- Employees introducing new people to company receive pounds 150

- Never recruits anyone who worked in direct-sell, commission-based


- Never recruits from mobile phone business

- New recruits have to sit two-hour exam and have to score at least 75%

- Employee benefit trust to which employees can apply for money in times

of need.